Since I was already a runner, I continued running during both my pregnancies. I’ve had so many questions from friends, clients and complete strangers about the ins and outs of running during pregnancy that I realized running during pregnancy is one of those things nobody is really sure about. Is it safe? Should you try it? What does it feel like? How do you modify for each trimester?
Obviously each pregnancy and each woman is different, but these are my answers to the 15 most frequently asked questions I’ve heard on running while pregnant – hopefully if you’re considering continuing with your running once you conceive, this information will help you out!
15 Frequently Asked Questions on Running During Pregnancy
Is it safe to run during pregnancy?
For most women who were running prior to pregnancy, who are having a pregnancy with no complications, the answer is yes, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommendations for exercise during pregnancy. That said, you should always check with your doctor or midwife to make sure they’re happy for you to continue running.
You weren’t a runner before getting pregnant? You may still be able to work your way up to running during pregnancy. Consult with your medical provider first, then if they give you the okay, try a run-walk method to begin. Particularly during pregnancy, you should be aware of your body’s cues and don’t ignore any signs of discomfort, especially if you’re starting running from scratch.
Does the baby jiggle up and down?
No. Baby is pretty well-encased in all that lovely amniotic fluid, which protects your little bundle of joy as you go about anything you do in day-to-day life, including running and working out.
Are you supposed to stick to a certain heart rate range?
No. There was once an ACOG recommendation for pregnant women to stick to a heart rate maximum of 140 bpm, but with new research, that recommendation was revised in 1982 to read that pregnant women should stick to workouts of moderate exertion.
Do you have to wear a support belt?
It depends on your comfort level. I never felt the need to wear one during either pregnancy, despite running up to 37 weeks of pregnancy. However, some women swear by them. The best answer is to try one if you feel like you need extra support – it may well work for you.
Should you get different shoes?
Not necessarily. Your choice of shoe really depends on a few different factors – how much weight you’ve gained, whether your form has changed significantly with your new center of gravity, but most importantly, whether they still feel comfortable.
For a great explanation of what works (and what are total myths) behind choosing the right shoe as a runner, you should check out this awesome podcast on full-body gait analysis from Runner’s Connect, with elite runner Tina Muir interviewing sports therapist Matt Phillips.
Is there any other special gear or clothing I need to run while pregnant?
There are a few things to consider when you’re thinking about pregnancy-specific running gear. The first is that you want to ensure you’re not overheating as you run. Obviously this is more of a concern during the warmer months, but even in cold temperatures you may want to think about several light layers that you can shed as you go.
Especially if you’re running long, you’ll probably want to have fuel and water with you. I love love love my FlipBelt (which I started using during training for the NYC Marathon in 2013), but that only worked for me up until about 24 weeks, then it was too uncomfortable. You may want to experiment with different fuel belts, or make sure you’re wearing running clothes with plenty of pockets for stashing necessities. I would also add that I never ran outside without my phone while pregnant, just in case I needed to make an emergency call.
In terms of actual maternity workout clothes, this is kind of dependent on the way your pregnancy shows and develops. In my first pregnancy, I carried pretty low, so I needed maternity workout pants early on, but for the most part I made do with regular tops in larger sizes. This time around, I am carrying super high, so I never needed maternity pants – I just used my regular tights and kept them under the bump. I definitely needed maternity tops though and relied on For Two Fitness and Old Navy maternity for those – I highly recommend both!
Finally – the girls. If you’re planning on continuing running during your entire pregnancy, it’s likely that sports bras are going to become a financial outlay for you, since your size will increase throughout. I made do with my regular running bra – Moving Comfort Juno – until about 16 weeks, then I layered one of those Champion sports bras (the stretchy ones without any seaming or wire) over top, which kept the girls in check until about the mid-way point. Luckily, the bras I bought and wore running during my first pregnancy still worked for me this time around. I sized up twice in the second half of pregnancy and continued doubling up with the Champion bras as well. As soon as you feel unsupported, or it’s obvious to you that your regular size is not fitting, go get sized and buy your normal running bra in your new size. Hopefully you will only have to do it once or twice throughout the whole pregnancy, because we all know good running bras are pricey!
Does your center of gravity and balance change? Are you at more risk of falling?
Your center of gravity definitely shifts as your belly grows during pregnancy. Since it’s a fairly gradual process, you may not find your balance is affected unduly by this shift – but your posture almost certainly will be affected without your intervention. Try focusing on tucking your tailbone under a little more as you run, to counteract any anterior pelvic tilt that may lead to lower back pain.
Your risk of falling may increase if your form changes drastically. I personally found that as I got tired while running during pregnancy, I was more likely to start shuffling my feet rather than picking them up for each stride. If you were on uneven ground and this was happening, there may be a greater risk for falls. My OB for my first pregnancy preferred me to run outdoors rather than on a treadmill, because he felt the moving belt posed a slight risk of falling.
Again, pay attention to how you’re feeling and whether your changing body means you’re compensating in form, then correct as you go.
Does the baby kick and move while you’re running?
This totally depends on your pregnancy, your body and your baby. In my first, working out and running was definitely when my son took a little in-utero nap – lulled by the movement, I guess. With my second pregnancy, this child will not stop moving, seemingly through anything I do.
What are the benefits of running during pregnancy?
There are so many benefits, like possibly helping to prevent or treat gestational diabetes, helping alleviate back pain and postural pain caused by pregnancy and helping you sleep better.
Being pregnant can be stressful, nerve-wracking and sometimes overwhelming, especially if it’s your first child. The unknowns of the whole process, as well as getting used to the idea of becoming a parent, can take their toll on you. Remember that running is awesome for stress-relief, mood boosting and if you’re already a runner, having that little bit of normality to your routine.
As well, all the usual benefits of running still apply to you and your body while pregnant. What’s awesome, though, is that those benefits are also passed on to your unborn baby! Most notably in recent years, there’s been exciting new research to show that a baby’s heart rate is positively affected by exercise like running during pregnancy, with that effect lasting for up to 6 months after birth! There’s also a study that shows the brain function of babies born to women who exercised regularly during pregnancy is affected, with more mature brain function shown in babies born to women who worked out while pregnant. (The researchers are planning on re-assessing the babies’ brain functions at one year of age, to see if the effects last beyond the first few months).
Is it true it can make labor and delivery easier?
Maybe? This is an almost impossible question to answer, since there are so many variables that occur during your labor and delivery. Exercising isn’t going to flip a breech baby, for example, or be able to prevent you being induced if you get to two weeks post due-date with no labor in sight.
Anecdotally, many women report that the focus and determination necessary for continuing to work out or run during pregnancy is something they can draw upon during what is most definitely an endurance event. (With the best medal ever at the end!).
If you stay fit and healthy throughout your pregnancy, maintaining as much muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness as possible, that’s definitely going to be hugely beneficial to you during recovery from giving birth, when your body has gone through a huge trauma.
Do people give you any negative feedback about running during pregnancy?
The only negative feedback I had about running while pregnant was from people who were told during their own pregnancies that it was unsafe to work out – so a different age group, who were pregnant prior to research showing that exercise like running during pregnancy is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.
For the most part, my experience with feedback about running during pregnancy was overwhelmingly positive. Many people went out of their way to high-five me, cheer me on, or say something supportive whenever I was running or racing while pregnant. It was kind of awesome to realize that it’s definitely becoming an accepted truth that being a fit and active pregnant mama is important and healthy.
Isn’t it too tiring to run during pregnancy? How do you find the energy?
Sometimes it’s too tiring to run during pregnancy. But sometimes it’s too tiring to do the dishes during pregnancy, too. (Just ask my husband!) If working out is a priority for you, then when you have the time set aside to run, even if you feel tired, you should take advantage of that time and do it anyway. Trust me, once you have the baby, those available times become shorter and further apart.
If you still feel tired and just not into it once you get going, then stop! It’s as simple as that.
Generally though, exercise gives you energy, so you may find – somewhat counterintuitively – that just getting your butt out the door and starting on your run makes you less tired than when you started out.
When can I start running again after giving birth?
It totally depends on your birth experience and what your health-care provider advises. If it’s important to you to get back to running as quickly as you can, I’d suggest bringing that up with your doctor or midwife while you’re still pregnant, then again right after giving birth, to get their expert advice. Usually, for a vaginal birth you’re advised to stick to light activity only until a check-up six weeks after delivery, or for a c-section at eight weeks, but this may be too conservative if you’re in excellent condition prior to delivery – that’s where your health-care provider’s opinion comes in.
Are there any surprises about running during pregnancy?
Yes. So many! You may find that if you’re not doing exercises for your pelvic floor during pregnancy, you’re more likely to pee a little as you run (exercise-induced or stress incontinence). You may be surprised at how normal you feel while running during pregnancy – there were definitely times I forgot I was even pregnant once I was in the zone (until about 28 weeks or so). Since you have so much extra blood in your system while pregnant, your heart is pumping harder than usual, so be prepared that your pace is going to slow considerably while your rate of perceived exertion will be higher. (Walk breaks will help!)
If you want more advice on running during pregnancy, I wrote a whole post on tips for running through pregnancy you can check out.
When should you stop running during pregnancy?
If the question is at what point during your pregnancy should you stop running altogether, the answer is when it doesn’t feel good or beneficial anymore. If every time you go for a run it sucks and you feel awful during and afterwards, then don’t force yourself to keep doing it. I was so hoping in my second pregnancy I’d be one of those incredible women who went for a run the day they gave birth, but it turns out 37 weeks was my limit of comfort for running.
If the question is more about when you should take a break when you’re out running at any point during your pregnancy, the answer is, when you feel like you need a break. In my non-pregnant running life, there have definitely been times – like during a hard workout, or a race – when I’ve pushed myself through and past the feeling that I need to stop now. Pregnancy is not the time to do that. When you’re pregnant, you need to be a little more aware of your body temperature, your increased hydration need and just paying attention of whether you’re feeling okay about your level of exertion. You’re already superwoman for growing a human while going about your regular life, so you don’t need to prove anything by pushing yourself too hard in a pregnancy workout.
Remember, exercise during pregnancy should make you feel good. It’s so healthy to workout while you’re pregnant, no matter what activity you choose as your exercise. Even if you were a serious runner prior to pregnancy, you may find that you can’t continue while you’re pregnant – and that’s okay, too. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself getting back on the roads, trails or track as a postpartum mother runner and then you can start setting PPPR’s (PostPartumPR‘s) until you get back into pre-baby running shape (or even faster!).
If you ran during pregnancy, was there a common question you got from people?
What was your favorite way to exercise during pregnancy?
Mother runners, did you get faster after having kids?